Coach Benitez won’t be replaced, asserts Real Madrid president

Madrid, Dec 18 (IANS) Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has quashed reports that the Spanish football giants are planning to replace head coach Rafa Benitez with either club legend Zinedine Zidane or former chief tactician Jose Mourinho who was sacked recently by English champions Chelsea.

Benitez is under pressure as Real Madrid have fallen five points behind FC Barcelona and city rivals Atletico Madrid in the La Liga table after 15 games. But the Real president said the team had been in decline since last January and Benitez was the right man to turn the club’s fortunes around.

“We hired Benitez to sort out a specific problem; he was the right man among the many possibilities that we had. And if we believed that he was the right man at the start of the season we can’t three months later say he is not,” Perez was quoted as saying by on Thursday.

“Benitez will not be replaced by Zidane. Benitez has come to resolve a problem that we have, and because of that Benitez is the solution not the problem,” said Perez.

“No, no-one. Zidane was my most enigmatic signing and he will be a great coach and I’m sure if he wants to be Madrid coach then he will be, but not today.”

Asked if Portuguese Mourinho could return to the club one day, Perez said: “No-one knows the future but right now no, because we have Rafa Benitez and we are not contemplating beyond Rafa.”

Perez also said it was false the players had fallen out with the coach.

“We have a great coach. Rafa is the person that we have chosen and we have to let him work with the collaboration of all the players. I talk to the players and it is not true that they do not get on with him.”

He also denied stories that the club’s players were against the coach adding central defender Pepe has told him, “We have a great coach. It is not true that the players do not get on with Rafa.”

Despite denying any intention to re-employ Mourinho, he added: “I have good memories of Mourinho. He raised our competitive level. When Mourinho came we had been knocked out for six straight seasons in the round of 16 of the Champions League and we were 13th in the UEFA rankings, and when he left we were number one and we made it to three consecutive semi-finals always losing in unlucky circumstances.

“He gave us a competitive boost. But all coaches come and they all have to go (Vicente) Del Bosque, Mourinho. The job wears them out and you need to change.”

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